Monday, November 21, 2016

New Hanko Name Stamp from Japan

Kanji drawings of my name that might
become my name stamp (hanko).
On my Tuesday, Oct. 25, 2016, Part Four, post I talked about the name stamp that Tanaka-san was going to make for me.

Tanaka-san changed the first character (first square at top right) which was kami (God) to za (sitting) as in zazen for Zen meditation (which, admittedly, I don't do) in the top right of the second square.  The final actual stamp has zen as in Zen Buddhism.  He didn't ask me about using this so I have to go with what he decided as he is the artist.  I do understand how difficult and, probably impossible, it is to come up with the character for the first syllable of my name as there is no good presentation of the Ji-e (long e) sound.

I received my new hanko name stamp in the mail on Saturday.  (Amazingly, it arrived without my street address; just my name, town, state and zipcode.  My friends at the Post Office really know me and where I live!)

I was ureshii (ecstatically happy) to say the least.  It's a thing of beauty as Tanaka-san carved it out of stone (what kind?  I'll have to ask) and the stamp part is covered with a lovely fabric "box."  He also carved his signature onto the side of the stone stamp.

It's too large to fit into my Ito Bashofu hanko case, so I'm putting it into something larger.  In Japan, people carry their hanko around with them in order to sign official documents.  Since mine is just for use on my artwork, I don't need the small convenient size of a little change purse.

The white paper with the sample stamp and the Chinese characters (kanji) came on top of the stone stamp to illustrate what the stamp and signature would look like when used.

As I mentioned above, the first character is zen and the character below it is ni (meaning thoughtfulness or benevolence), the next character at the top left is fu (fabric--- oh, so me!), and the last one is a for linen.  The last two, I think, really represent me.
Note Tanaka-san's carved "initials" on the side.
Sample of my hanko stamp at top with the character (kanji)
represented in script below it.  Tanaka Kazuomi san's
hanko and signature (Kazuomi) at bottom left.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Remembering: Images that remind me of where I've been

One of the 53 Stations of the Tokaido Road series by Utagawa Hiroshige
In Tokyo's Asakusa, at the Amuse Museum, they had a wonderful exhibit of Ukiyoe prints which I took images of as I walked down the stairs from the documentary film on the most famous of the artists.

Hiroshige (his first name) is famous for his 53 Stations of the Tokaido Road which illustrate scenes of the Tokaido Road (Eastern Sea Road) from Edo (now Tokyo) to Kyoto in all the four seasons.

Another of the Tokaido Road in winter, by Utagawa Hiroshige
It would be wonderful to take that Tokaido Road trip some day!

If you do a Google search on "53 stations of the Tokaido Road prints", you'll get the Wikipedia site which has a photograph taken in 1865 by a woman, Felice Beato, of one portion of the road.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Postcard from Japan: Follow-Up from America

Seiyu Department Store, my mother-in-law's local
store for everything including groceries (in basement), is
owned by Walmart.
This is a follow-up now that I'm back home in Michigan and I remember a number of things I didn't include or mention.

One of them, that I realized actually when I was last at Seiyu buying sushi for dinner the night before I left to go home, is that Seiyu Department Store is now owned by Walmart.  Yes!  There was a computer monitor at a cash register that was shut down in another lane with just the Walmart logo on the screen.  My friend, Forde Sakuoka, had mentioned that to me soon after I arrived and I'd forgotten to mention it--- it hadn't sunk in yet.  It is a small, small world.

I finally looked up the Sogetsu school of ikebana, Japanese flower arranging.  Here are a couple of links that will help with the explanation:

I have a feeling that I have seen Sogetsu ikebana flower arrangements before, probably on my last trip in 2005, at the Hotel Metropolitan.  They are huge and dramatic.  If I can find an image of the hotel lobby from my last trip, I'll add it in to this post.  If you google search on "sogetsu ikebana flower arrangements" you find images that show endless images.  Some are small, but there are immensely huge ones that are used in hotel lobbies.

Jomon period pot with rope design used to store nuts
or cook meat or fish.
On my Tuesday, Oct. 25, Part Two post, I showed images of the Toro Village Learning Center in Shizuoka which recreates a Yayoi village:  its houses, buildings, and rice paddies.  I had learned about the Yayoi culture in my Waseda Univeristy Kosaibu class on the Art History of Japan.  I hadn't yet understood the difference between Yayoi culture and Jomon, and even the Haniwa figurines and where they fit in.  After doing a little research on line once back home, Jomon era came first (13000 BC to about 300 BC; hunters, gatherers, fishermen), then Yayoi (300 BC to 300 AD with the rice growing culture brought in from China and Korea; also iron and metal working), and then Kofun (300 - 538 AD) which brought together the southern part of the main island of Japan into one country with the emperor living in the Nara area.  (The Haniwa figurines, unglazed pottery figures, were produced during the Kofun period.)

Another pot (almost 2 feet tall) from Jomon period.
The Amuse Museum had a very good exhibit of Jomon pottery.  (The lighting in one of the rooms was colored and didn't display the pottery well.  Also, I didn't take images of all of the explanatory signs but I think even the second large pot shown is Jomon.)   In the Jomon period, straw rope was considered sacred and was used often on their pottery to create texture and designs.  I believe that the pottery and all the pieces of clothing shown were also from Tanaka Chuzaburo's collection as were the Boro fabrics.

A traditional Japanese back strap loom.
Also there was a traditional loom that sat on the floor.  It was a back strap loom with a branch arched above the loom and connected to the warp beam in front.  The other end of the branch would have a rope loop the weaver's right foot would go through that loop in order to change sheds.  Japanese weaving on these looms was only two shafts/harnesses (plain weave).  When the alternate shed was needed, the weaver would pull back on their right foot and the shed would be changed and opened.  I actually wove on a loom like this during the spring of 1972 at the Yuukitsumugi Weaving Factory in Tochigi Prefecture, except that it was raised up off the floor about 1-1/2'.

I hope you can read the sign describing the meaning of "mottainai"---  that's a waste or it's too good to waste.  When it comes to fabric especially (even food), it explains a lot about Japanese culture.  (If you click on the picture and Zoom In, you should be able to read the commentary.)

The Yayoi culture, which followed Jomon, is well documented at the Toro Village Learning Center in Shizuoka.  At the International Christian University's art museum, there is also excellent documentation of the Jomon and Yayoi cultures that I remember.  As the ICU dug the foundations for its new buildings on campus, pottery and living sites were discovered and an archeology department developed.  I wasn't able to take any pictures of the pottery and signs as photographs weren't allowed.

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Postcard from Japan: On the way home, Wed., November 9, 2016

A piece I saw in an exhibit at the
Narita, Terminal 2, Int'l
Departures area of the 90th
Anniversary exhibit of the Ikebana
Sogetsu group from Chiba Prefecture.
I woke up at 4am concerned that I wouldn't get everything into my suitcase and that I had too much carry-on bags to be able to handle it all.  I was right about the carry-on --- I lugged that through airplane terminals, planes, and more...  The flight was shorter by 4 hours or so but still difficult for me.  I think on the Japan-to-US flight I should have taken some melatonin as was suggested some where on the internet.  Maybe next time.

Close-up of the above piece.  The paper
pieces reminded me of quilling paper but
I'm not sure what it was.
The International Departures floor is huge, resembling at least one football field in size or more.  I decided that once checked in and my suitcase checked and off to the plane, I would walk.  So I walked around the perimeter and around and around this huge flat open area for as long as I could before it got close to the time I should head for my gate.

I happened upon an exhibit of the Ikebana Sogetsu group from Chiba Prefecture (in which Narita Airport is located; to the east of Tokyo).
Ikebana is the traditional art of flower arranging.  I'm not yet sure what Sogetsu refers to (the 2nd character is month, getsu) but every piece used the rows upon rows of long pointed folded papers to form designs.
I apologize for the odd photographs but all the pieces were covered with glass and the reflections made clear images impossible.
Unfortunately, only the light colored pieces came out the best as the dark ones showed only reflections of lights and me.

I watched three movies on the plane (there were about 15-20 to choose from!):  The BFG (Disney animated story about an English orphan girl in London who is abducted by a giant one night but comes upon giants 10 times his size; and meeting the Queen), The Hunt for the Wilder People (Sam Neill in New Zealand and a young Maori boy who live out in the wild rather than let the authorities return the youth to the foster system), and The Legend of Tarzan (no explanation needed except that Alexander Skarsgard who plays Tarzan is an  excellent actor--- and a hunk).

I wasn't sleeping but exhausted so I started another and another movie and finally slept for an hour, I think.  Just not long enough.

The lights of Chicago and Lake Michigan below and the moon above.  
I had to go through customs at Chicago.  Exhausted, trying to stay awake, and hauling my carry-on (laptop, 2 cameras, books, and more) in both hands plus purse on my shoulder, I made it to G11 gate (G went all the way to #99) and onto the plane.  Once in the air and sitting by the window, I realized that it was night time and Chicago lay below with yellow/orange lights brilliantly lighting up the sky with the moon above.  A black Lake Michigan lay off the left.  Finally I realized I should take a picture of my last moments before leaving that brilliance of the big city.

My friend, Julia Voake, met me at the airport.  It was so wonderful to see her!  And wonderful to get home, see my cats (took them a while to come out but once I fed them and petted them and whispered to them, they remembered me), and sleep in my own bed.  Thanks for tuning in for this long Postcard from Japan!

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Postcard from Japan: Indigo-dyed Work Kimono - Tuesday, November 8, 2016

The International Christian University outside Tokyo in Musashisakai/Mitaka was begun in 1950, just shortly after the end of WWII.  The campus is large and lovely with immense trees, beautiful buildings for each department as well as an art museum which I realized has hosted some extraordinary textile exhibits about traditional Japan techniques.  This exhibit is Japanese indigo-dyed work kimono.  After viewing the Boro exhibit at the Amuse Museum in Asakusa, I was assuming that these textiles would these would be in poor shape as the boro were.  Fortunately that wasn't true and the exhibit had 30 or more kimono-type work clothes worn by different workers, often those in the cities, during the 19th and early 20th century.

Festival hanten with waves
I took many photos so, again, this will be a selection.  A hanten is a knee length jacket in kimono style which often is worn showing the crest of the family you work for (e.g., livery) or occupation (fisherman, fireman).
Fireman's coat

Festival hanten with fishermen
Embroidered pants
There were many examples of  work jackets for firemen.  When fighting a fire, they would wear two layers of garments and then have water poured on them to completely soak the garments.

Fireman's hat
Fireman's undergarments.
Sashiko emboirdery and shibori-stitched section goes with kasuri leaf
pattern above.
Leaf pattern of warp and weft kasuri.
The previous leaf kasuri and flower shibori
are part of this beautiful work kimono.

When I returned to the Musashisakai train station,  I stepped down from the bus to find the central plaza wreathed in blue Christmas lights!

This is my last adventure of my trip.  Back to Mama-san's and packing and a dinner of sushi from Seiyu Department Store.

Kasuri and sashiko embroidered work aprons
It's already Christmas time in Japan!

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Postcard from Japan: Monday, November 7, 2016

Yes, we went to have anmitsu again, one more time.  The hot Ocha and the smooth cool vanilla ice cream is so delicious with the soft anko (red bean paste).  I thought the anko was the anmitsu, but I learned that it's the entire dish and its contents.  It was the last time, at least for this trip, that Mariko-san and I will have anmitsu together.

Mihashi's specialty is anmitsu.  Mariko-san's favorite
dessert and shop.
We also walked around Ikebukuro for a time, aiming to go to the Sunshine Building but on the way Mariko-san saw a store called "Book-Off" and, knowing that love books, we went in.  Books written in English were way in the back but well worth the search.  I didn't realize that book-off means they're used books until I exclaimed at the really cheap price of the two I wanted (both 150yen each, so $3 for the two).  I found a copy of "Robin Hood" written in novel form from the movie with Russell Crowe and "The Geography of India," a cultural and historical view of India from ancient time to present.  I keep feeling as though I'm not going to sleep on the plane and I need to have enough books with me just in case.

Elevator attendant at Tobu Department
Store in Ikebukuro
Because I was considering going to see another textile exhibit in which Mariko-san definitely had NO interest, she left and I walked around Tobu Department store.  I waited for the elevator and was so surprised to find that they still have elevator attendants--- and in pink!

This is me in a skinny mirror in my latest
combination of clothing for Japan.  Notice
my turquoise camera!
I had gotten off at the 6th floor not knowing what I'd find--- it was the men's department with pretty much no men around--- and very, very quiet.  I went in the Otearai (restroom) and, of course, no other women were in there.  After washing my hands and drying them in the air dryer, I turned to find myself in a long mirror at the end of the restroom.  And a skinny mirror at that!  So, I took a selfie of myself looking a lot thinner than I really am!  (I gained weight the first week I was with Mama-san--- so much bread, rice, noodles, and  FRIED FOOD and almost no vegetables or fruit; salad seems unknown.  It seems that Japan has changed to a convenience society where the easier food to get at the grocery store is fried.  I'm definitely eating only vegetables and fruit when I get home.)

A simple dinner of rice, miso shiru with tofu, nuka pickled cucumbers,
scrambled egg with soy sauce and a little too much sugar (so it's a
little burned but still really good tasting), nori (seaweed) and grilled
salmon from Mariko-san's dinner.
I ended up not going out to exhibit of indigo-dyed work kimono but returning to Narimasu and my mother-in-law's.  One major adventure a day is about what I can handle.  We had a simple dinner. Mama-san complained that she'd put too much sugar in the eggs... they look burned because the soy sauce burns very easily, but they tasted very good.  My favorite Japanese food is still gohan to miso shiru (rice and miso soup)--- so satisfying.

Front door and entrance area where you
take off your shoes and put on slippers.
I decided to take some photos of the inside of the apartment.  My mother-in-law (giri no haha) lives in a typical three-room apartment: a small narrow entrance hall with
The toilet in a separate room off the entrance.
the toilet a separate room on one side and the
On the other side of the entrance area is
a room that has a sink/mirror, the
washing machine, and (not seen) the shower
and Ofuro area.
shower/ofuro on the other side,
When you pass through the entrance area
and close the door, you're in the dining
a dining area and
The dining area has a table squeezed into
it and the kitchen forms the other
side of the L.
kitchen in an
The kitchen.
This is my mother-in-law's bedroom with
a bed and wood floors.  Note the
sliding door to the balcony on which
the laundry is hung.
This is the room off the dining area with tatami
where I slept on the blow-up bed.  Note
the sliding door to the balcony on which
the laundry is hung.
a tatami room, and a wood floored room.  A balcony surrounds these rooms since she's on the corner of the second floor.  Instead of windows, there are sliding doors on both the tatami and the wood-floored rooms.

One more day to go before leaving on Wed., the 9th, for home in Michigan.
The shower and Ofuro area just
beyond the washing machine.